03 July 2013
Hospitals blocking investigations to avoid negligence claims
Hospitals are blocking investigations from taking place if they feel they could result in clinical negligence claims.
According to lawyers acting on behalf of the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), NHS guidance giving hospitals the right to refuse to consider complaints if a patient or relative is considering future legal action are unlawful.
A 'letter before claim' - which must be sent to any party a person is considering taking action against - has been issued to secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt, as AvMA seeks to make sure changes are made to the current system. If the guidance is not altered, the charity will commence judicial review proceedings in the High Court.
Peter Walsh, AvMA chief executive, said the current situation is "outrageous", especially as it comes at a time when so much is being said about the need for greater transparency and honesty in the system.
"The Department of Health continues to leave the door open for NHS bodies to use potential claims for clinical negligence as an excuse not to provide a truthful investigation and response to a complaint," he added.
Mr Walsh added the decision to go down the legal route is one that has been made reluctantly, but the group has been left without a choice after "repeated requests to ministers have so far fallen on deaf ears".
If the rules are changed off the back of this initiative, people could find it out easier to successfully pursue clinical negligence claims. After the Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust scandal, which saw up to 1,200 patients die after receiving appalling care, government ministers have sought to introduce a new duty of candour for the NHS in an effort to address the culture of silence.
Mr Walsh stated trusts that justify using this loophole by saying it will save the NHS money or embarrassment "have got it wrong", adding: "Many people would be satisfied with an honest complaint investigation and apology. This behaviour makes them more likely to want to sue."
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Posted by Chris Stevenson